Home » Wrecked Your Supercar? Here’s What You Need to Know About Getting It Fixed.

Wrecked Your Supercar? Here’s What You Need to Know About Getting It Fixed.

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It’s a balmy 73 degrees Fahrenheit as you trip the light fantastic with your 1,000 hp dream machine and its seemingly endless grip, when—BAM!—it happens: your perfect supercar life is shattered into shards of high-grade carbon fiber. Whether you’ve binned it at a track day or been bumper-car’d by a texting teen, how to handle the aftermath can be confounding. Who do you call? What do you say? And how do you run damage control on the post-wreck scenario? Fear not, as we navigate the curious world of supercar repair.

Racer Raymond May loses a wheel from his Bugatti during competition, circa early 1930s.

The unexpected happens. The key is remaining in control after the fact.

National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Buy, Sell, or Hold?

The very first question following any high-dollar ding is the seemingly simple one of whether the damage is significant enough to deem the car a complete loss, or merely an expensive but repairable ouch. Of course, multimillion-dollar vehicles are near impossible to total, as the cost to repair becomes incremental to the overall value. But oftentimes the call isn’t so cut and dry.

Ray Shahi, vice president of Sterling Collision Centers and owner of Newport Beach Ferrari/Maserati Collision Center in Southern California, has literally seen it all when it comes to exotic-car wrecks. His facility is factory certified by Bugatti, Ferrari, McLaren, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, and others to perform work on virtually every ultra-high-end model imaginable. He cites a recent incident involving the 19-year-old son of an owner of a McLaren 720S Spider, and an unplanned meeting with a curb during a joyride, to illustrate the vagaries of supercar mishaps. What might have appeared to be relatively minor damage to untrained eyes turned out to be significant enough to condemn the $326,000 convertible as a total loss.

The interior of a McLaren 720S Spider.

What may seem like a minor incident behind the wheel could hide significant structural compromise.

John Keeble/Getty Images

For lesser incidents—say, a parking-lot scrape or a love tap at a stoplight—the options become more nuanced. But a common refrain is a general distrust of vehicles that have been wrecked before resale. “If it’s not a total write-off, nobody wants a car that has had an accident, or even a respray,” says collector Andrew Zalasin, who counts a number of rare Ferraris and Porsches in his stable. But he walks that back a bit by adding, “That’s less so now than ever because people are driving their cars,” alluding to the trend towards actually using, not cosseting, expensive machines that also happen to contain serious investment potential. “The idea of diminution of value is a problem,” Zalasin says, referring to would-be buyers viewing cars with a flawed history as damaged goods, thereby resulting in less demand and lowering resale value.

This 1963 AC Cobra shows off battle scars received during a race at the 2015 Goodwood Revival.

This 1963 AC Cobra shows off battle scars received during a race at the 2015 Goodwood Revival.

Michael Cole/Corbis via Getty Images

Naturally, there are exceptions to every rule. Consider outliers like the Ferrari 250 GTO, which holds holy-grail status among collectors. Only 36 examples of the curvy sports car were built, almost all of which were at some time raced, wrecked, and repaired. Because accident history is all but guaranteed, on the rare occasion that one surfaces for sale, the repair records are a moot point. There are also unusual examples, like the McLaren F1 crunched by Elon Musk; the current custodian insists that the previous owner’s well-publicized wreck only adds to the value of his already coveted steed.

The economies of scale are, of course, unique to the microcosm of exotic cars. Paris Mullins, O’Gara Coach’s director of Motorsport and Special Projects, cites a Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé that suffered a fender bender while on loan to a well-known R&B singer. “It was repaired beautifully,” says Mullins, “but we obviously had to disclose it.” When it came time to sell the Rolls, its street value was more subjective than a spreadsheet might suggest. “People forget that the discount has to be proportionate,” Mullins continues. “So, let’s say I tell you that we’re going to discount 30 grand from this $500,000 Rolls Drophead, when the accident repairs were maybe only 20 grand; [many] people would say, ‘I’d rather have a perfect car.’ But how about 40 grand? 50 grand? It can get to the point where the discount has to be so ridiculous because they’d rather just buy something new.”

A Bugatti Veyron in London traffic.

Rather than sequester their high-dollar investments in static collections, a growing number of supercar owners are driving them regularly, accepting the risk of damage.

Martyn Lucy/Getty Images

The Insurance Game

Your supercar in question was obviously insured, right? (Please tell us it was insured.) Moving past that awkward question, the hows and whys of insurance coverage can get tricky when we’re talking about upper-echelon models.

“Many owners pay for repairs in cash and don’t run it through insurance in hopes that it doesn’t show up on the Carfax,” says Mullins. “But obviously, that gets very ugly if that ends up getting found out. When a car goes in for service, we often find all kinds of masking tape or weird lines, and realize the car has been repainted. It’s very tricky. The sad thing is, there are times when it comes out better than original.” Mullins cites a running joke about Ferraris of yore, before the Italian brand upped the quality of its manufacturing process. “Oh, this Ferrari has definitely been in an accident,” the old quip goes. “Look at how good the paint is.”

A close-up of a Maserati with shattered windows.

Finding the right insurance is imperative. Fortunately, there are more viable options than ever.

STR/AFP via Getty Images

Planning ahead can avoid a world of pain when it comes to investment preservation in the topsy-turvy world of exotic-car ownership. Collectors agree there are more options than ever in terms of insurance policies, now that supercars have reached a broader audience. “The world of insurance has changed,” notes Zalasin. “Because there were fewer supercars 10 or 15 years ago, people were more concerned about reporting [their accidents] to insurance. Today, there are fewer owners who are real car people, and new supercar owners are less knowledgeable about the cars they own.” That said, more common options like agreed-value policies and diminution-of-value clauses can help owners recoup lost values due to accidents. An even harsher sting is felt when a premium is paid for an exclusive vehicle that literally goes up in flames. Just ask collector Alejandro Salomon, who paid roughly $500,000 over sticker price for a McLaren Senna, only to see it self-immolate 11 days after purchase.

“Word to the wise; don’t skimp on your coverage,” advises collector Drew Coblitz. “I know quite a few people who undervalue their cars. If you get into an accident, you’ve just screwed yourself.” While there have never been more insurers willing to cover supercars, it’s important to stipulate that a reputable specialist in high-end makes performs the repairs. “As a matter of right, insurance companies allow you to choose your shop,” adds Zalasin. “They may have some recommendations, but they can’t tell you where to go.”

A conceptual image for car insurance that shows stacked coins with a blurred supercar in the background.

“Don’t skimp on your coverage,” advises collector Drew Coblitz.

William Potter/Getty Images

Regardless of whether your car is taken to a dealership or an independent repair shop, chances are that the work will be performed by an independent entity that’s on contract with the dealership—which is just as well. “I’d rather take my car to an artisan whose sole purpose is body and paint, not service,” emphasizes Zalasin. “It used to be that the dealer controlled the narrative, but, in most instances, independent shops are better.”

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (a Supercar Repair)

Let’s state the obvious before we get further into the nitty-gritty about supercar repairs: sending your beloved exotic to the car spa isn’t quite the same thing as getting a workaday commuter vehicle taken out of commission from its day-to-day duties. “These are not modes of transportation,” says Mullins. “These are wants, not needs.”

Racer G E Abecassis narrowly missed a lake when his car skidded off the track during preparations for the Sydenham Trophy meeting in 1938.

Unless you are currently in a race, keep your expectation of repair time in perspective to keep frustration at bay.

H. F. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

That said, the frustration of car repair in the ultra-premium market has been exacerbated by the recent strains of the pandemic. Shahi says the process sometimes takes between two and seven months to complete, namely because of the scarcity of parts. A prolonged absence can lead to a change of heart. “A lot of times, owners don’t want their cars back,” he says, suggesting that they’d rather move on to another acquisition rather than wait it out for their current one to be fixed.

A common concern with such costly machines is whether they can be as good as new following their restoration. Oftentimes, the resulting work actually enhances the already high production quality provided by the factory. Shahi mentions that the Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO race cars he fixes are often given added reinforcements, which help them become stiffer and more responsive. And then there’s the often-told story of actor Rowan Atkinson’s McLaren F1, which he crashed. It reputedly drove better than new following a $1.4 million repair job at the marque’s in-house McLaren Special Operations (MSO) division.

Rowan Atkinson's McLaren F1 after the actor spun it off the road and into a tree and road sign in 2011.

Rowan Atkinson’s McLaren F1 after the actor spun it off the road and hit a tree in 2011.

Paul Franks / newsteam / Getty Images

A Very Particular Set of Skills

A car is a car is a car, though some are a tad more special than others. Consider the case of supercars that incorporate carbon-fiber tubs, visible carbon-fiber skins (which are book matched), and the layer cake of exclusive materials and finishes that make putting Humpty Dumpty back together again a daunting task indeed.

The exponential growth in complexity of construction means repair shops must keep pace with those changes. Consider the so-called “woodpecker,” a machine designed to tap carbon-fiber monocoques in order to detect cracks and fractures that might compromise structural integrity. “Well, that wasn’t 100 percent accurate,” recalls Shahi, who went on to upgrade to an ultrasound machine that can help determine whether or not carbon fiber is repairable with far more precision. “Flying doctors used to use them,” he says, referring to the $120,000 imaging machine, “but now we’re trained and do it ourselves.”

Bugatti specialists at work at the marque's headquarters in Molsheim, France.

Bugatti specialists at work at the marque’s headquarters in Molsheim, France.

Patrick Hertzog/AFP via Getty Images

However, just because a shop is authorized to perform extensive restorations on expensive cars doesn’t mean the work is always done without consultation from the manufacturer. While most such jobs are outsourced to independent shops, when it comes to the $20 million+ McLaren F1, for example, McLaren’s MSO division and its Philadelphia service center remain the end-all to repairs. Mullins says that, in rare cases, factory representatives sometimes travel to independent facilities to “give the blessing” on the project. “It really depends on the situation and the car, because everyone escalates things differently. Bugatti handles things on a Chiron differently than Ferrari would on a Roma, or McLaren would on a P1 or a Speedtail.”

Advanced construction techniques yield spectacular visuals, though they’re sometimes so ambitiously executed that the finished product can eek through the final inspection stage with an undetected flaw. That’s exactly what happened with a Bugatti Chiron whose carbon skin had a nearly imperceptible blemish. Rather than dispatch the work to an outside entity, Bugatti had the vehicle flown back to the factory in Molsheim, France, and reapplied the entire rear section of the car. “[The owner] loved the way it was handled,” Mullins recalls. “Of course, it was unfortunate, but he now loves his car and drives the everlasting piss out of it.”

A Ferrari 330 LMB in a garage .

A car is a car is a car, though some are a tad more special than others.

Martyn Lucy/Getty Images

When the dollars and cents are finally accounted for, and the mental profit/loss numbers tabulated, it’s important to let go and consider yourself fortunate. “Hey look,” Mullins points out with a bit of perspective. “This thing saved your life . . . at the end of the day, your health and safety are the most important things. These are just objects.”

Basem Wasef is an automotive journalist and author of the book Speed Read Supercar, which explores the history, technology, and design of the world’s most exciting vehicles.

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